Though it’s impossible to truly tell until we see players get on the field, the Indianapolis Colts seem to have had a good offseason.
New general manager Chris Ballard made a number of signings in free agency which, coupled with his draft picks and undrafted free agent signings, seem to have improved the Colts and in particular their terrible defense.
We’ve seen all sorts of offseason grades and reviews already, so ESPN’s Mike Sando turned to 15 NFL executives, coaches, and talent evaluators to put together his grades for each team’s offseason. Those NFL insiders seem to also like what the Colts have done, as they gave Indianapolis a “B” for this offseason.
One executive had this to say:
"They did a nice job with a lot of sensible picks, sensible signings -- sort of the opposite of what they have done in recent years," an exec said. "John Simon is a good player that they got at a good price. In the draft, [guard/tackle] Zach Banner is just an enormous man who should play for a long time if his hips are OK. [Running back] Marlon Mack should be an interesting contributor for them."
A talent evaluator added:
"[Ballard] is trying to get younger and kind of grow together as opposed to making an impact with one or two guys by spending a lot of money," an evaluator said. "It is going to be an ongoing thing with them. [Ballard] is going to improve with nickels and dimes and then the next go-round in the draft, he'll hit it more and then in free agency next year, he will hit it a little bit stronger."
This theme that these people are getting at is the same thing that seemed obvious when Ballard was making the moves too: this was a very solid offseason. There was nothing spectacular in free agency that happened, but the Colts added a ton of new guys who should step in and make an impact right away. Jabaal Sheard, John Simon, Johnathan Hankins, and others should see very significant playing time, and it seems the Colts did improve their defense through the free agency process. What they did was add a bunch of younger guys with room to keep growing to their defense, hoping that they wouldn’t need to be the playmakers but rather the role players of a good defensive unit.
Then through the draft, Ballard added a couple of guys who very well might be those playmakers in Malik Hooker and Quincy Wilson, and then he added a number of other guys who might contribute right away - such as Tarell Basham, Marlon Mack, and Anthony Walker. The draft was a very good one that focused on areas of need and on good talent, and it complemented the free agency signings well.
Really, a lot of this offseason was about Chris Ballard gutting the roster of a number of holdovers from the Ryan Grigson era and bringing in some of his own guys, going to work on stabilizing a very bad defense. He appears to have done so, and even though the Colts are far from fixed yet, it was a nice first offseason in what will be a multi-year rebuild. There was a lot to like about Chris Ballard’s first offseason with the Colts - now we’ll have to see how those moves work out on the field.